City Hiring Initiatives

In cities across the country, record numbers of people with a criminal record are now struggling to turn their lives around and get a fair shot at employment in their communities.

Taking on this challenge, cities such as Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Minneapolis, San Francisco and St. Paul have created a more fair application process, so that people who have a criminal record are judged on the merits of their skills and experience, not just their criminal history. Opening up city hiring policies in this way is a critical first step toward convincing private employers to do the right thing and give proper consideration to job applicants with a criminal history.

These cities have created a more fair and efficient screening process by removing the question on their job applications which asks about an individual's criminal record, and instead waiting until the final stages of the hiring process to conduct a criminal background check. As a result, workers are encouraged to apply for city and county jobs, and government employers are able to access a broad applicant pool of workers best qualified for the job.

Working in partnership with local officials and advocates, NELP has been at the forefront of this effort to create model city hiring standards that promote employment of people with a criminal record. Expanding on these innovative policies, NELP has played a critical role by:

  • Documenting the growing number of city and county hiring reforms as part of a comprehensive resource that also includes all official city and county policies, local expert contacts, press stories, campaign material, and more.

  • Providing intensive assistance to city human resources officials and local advocates to help navigate the legal and technical issues necessary to develop new hiring policies.

  • Gathering data and other helpful background information to evaluate the local hiring policies and make recommendations for improvement.

For help in developing similar initiatives in new cities, please contact Maurice Emsellem,

See also our work on Economic and Workforce Development policies, which can be leveraged to increase employment opportunities for workers with criminal records.

Other key resources:

All of Us Or None

National League of Cities